Colo. County Loses Church Zoning Battle

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A Colorado church can move forward with its plans to expand now that it has won its case in court.

On Monday, a federal court ordered Boulder County to approve Rocky Mountain Christian Church's building permit. The church wanted to more than double its campus to 240,000 square feet from about 106,000 square feet near Niwot.

The church had challenged the county's denial of a special-use permit under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects churches from discriminatory land-use laws.

In the ruling Monday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the court cannot substitute its judgment for the jury's. It upheld U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn's order that the county approve the permit.

Pastor Alan Ahlgrim said the church has opened another large campus in nearby Frederick since it applied for the expansion permit in 2004.

"We got caught in that legal quagmire," he said. "We'll see what God has in store for our future. This was about keeping our options open."

The county was also ordered to pay the church's legal fees, which have climbed to $1.34 million.

In 2008, a jury found that the county's zoning laws were unfairly applied to churches, but the county appealed.

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